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OpenLearn Live: 26th November 2015

Updated Thursday 26th November 2015

Kilmachthomas, birthplace of a theatrical giant and site of a river which almost sank Cromwell. Then more free learning through the day.

OpenLearn Live brings free learning to the heart of your world. This page will be updated across the day, and you can also follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we focused on the Autumn Statement, but also found space for Christmas tree sex and a cartoon about climate change

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Today's posts

Quite a light day today - back to full strength tomorrow, but just wanted to wish luck to the courses team who are heading down to London for the THES awards this evening, where we've been shortlisted for our badging project. Read more about badges here; best of luck to those heading off to the prize giving.

The genetics of turkeys

The turkey is a fascinating bird. So while our American cousins sit down to enjoy a slice or two of the bird, we'll let another American explain the fascinating world of turkey genetics:

The turkey genome project got underway at Virginia Tech in 2008, and the sequence of a hen named Nici was published in 2010. Nici means “Nicholas inbred,” after famed turkey farmer George Nicholas who, at Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms in Sonoma, California, turned the wild bird into today’s barely recognizable top-heavy product of extreme artificial selection. Conventional agriculture fosters far more profound change than the one-gene-at-a-time tweaking of GMOs.

Read Talking Turkey

A week in County Waterford: Kilmacthomas

This week, we're filling the gap between the two episodes of Ireland With Simon Reeve exploring County Waterford. Yesterday, we visited Cheekpoint, and heard stories of Noah's granddaughter and fairies.  Today, we're passing through Kilmacthomas.

Kilmacthomas Railway Viaduct Creative commons image Icon Mícheál Ó Foghlú under CC-BY-NC licence under Creative-Commons license

And "passing through" might be an apt phrase as, oddly for such a lovely town, much of Kilmacthomas' positions in the history books is linked to people passing through.

During the Civil War in 1649, the Mahon frustrated Cromwell's attempts to march from Waterford to Dungarvan; flowing more strongly than it does these days, the river was at such heights that it took a full day for the troops to cross. Waiting to cross in driving rain, Cromwell described this as "as terrible a day as this I have never marched in all my life" - an observation recorded on a plaque at the site. His army was at such a low ebb that it's probable they could have been finished off had his enemies discovered them on the banks of the Mahon.

The most famous building in Kilmacthomas also helps people pass through - the viaduct over the Mahon, built between 1875 & 1880. Ireland's architechtural record describes the handsome structure:

An elegantly-composed railway viaduct, built to designs prepared by James Otway (1843 - 1906) by Smith Finlaysaon and Company, Glasgow, which forms a monument landmark dominating the skyline in the centre of Kilmacthomas. The civil engineering heritage significance of the composition is identified by the form and construction of the arches, which have retained their original profile. The construction in rubble stone with squared rubble stone dressings attests to high quality stone masonry, and produces an appealing textured visual effect in the landscape. The viaduct, one of a pair in the immediate locality, is of particular significance as a reminder of the development of the Great Southern and Western Railway line by the Waterford, Dungarvan, and Lismore Railway Company in the late nineteenth century, which promoted the economy of smaller urban areas, such as Kilmacthomas.

Kilmacthomas' most famous son is, without doubt, Tyrone Power, the actor, manager and producer. Born to a wealthy family, Power rose to fame in the early 19th century. Touring the British Isles and, notably, the United States, Power's choice of plays and casting played a major part in challenging negative and derogatory views of Irishness. It's believed he owned the land upon which Madison Square Gardens now stands but - after he died at sea when the SS President sank - the lawyer who effected the sale, and held the papers, could not be traced; his estate's claim could never be proven.

As today is Thanksgiving Day, let's round off with Power's description of the Catskills. An Irishman born amongst mountains, appreciating the views on the side of an Ocean which many of his countrymen would cross seeking better lives:

With two others, I decided upon walking back, and pleasant it is to walk through these quiet wild woodpaths, where the chirps of the birds and the nestle of the leaves alone break in upon the repose. These mountains are everywhere thickly clothed with wood, save only the platform where the house is built; deer abound on the lower ridges, and the bear yet finds ample cover here. A number of these animals are killed every season by an indefatigable old Nimrod who lives in the valley beneath, and who breeds some very fine dogs to this sport.

I did promise unto myself that during the coming November I would return up here, for the purpose of seeing Bruin baited in his proper lair; but regret to say my plan was frustrated.

It must be an exciting chase to rouse the lord of this wild mountain forest on a sunny morning with the first hoar frost yet crisping the feathery pines; and to hear the deep-mouthed hounds giving tongue where an hundred echoes wait to bay the fierce challenge back, and to hear the sharp crack of the rifle rattle through the thin air.

Or, whilst resting upon some crag under the blue sunny sky, to watch the sea of cold clouds tumbling about far below, and think that they o'er canopy a region lower still, about which one's fellows are at the moment creeping with red noses and watery eyes, or rubbing their frozen fingers over anthracite stoves, utterly unconscious, poor devils ! that the sun, when obscured by the clouds yet above shines not the less bright, though unseen.

More on The Civil War

Explore OpenLearn Ireland

See more about Ireland with Simon Reeve





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